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Cisco seeks developer love as it opens DNA Center - a bit anyway

Third-party kit welcomed as strand in Cisco's fabric

It didn't involve Steve Ballmer, but Cisco's had its “Developers! Developers! Developers!” moment.

The headline doesn't look particularly earth-shaking: Cisco could only manage the extremely prosaic statement that “Now DNA Center is an Open Platform” as a subhead in its announcement.

What's that mean?

Basically, it's extending intent-based networking beyond the walls of Cisco's hardware and software. However, it's also a characteristically Switchzilla definition of “open” – APIs, yes; plugin capabilities, yes; can manage competitors kit, yes; a DNA Center SDK, yes; static credentials that leave the whole system wide open, sometimes.

If you expected “open” to mean “here's the source code”, no.

While David Goeckeler, executive veep and general manager in charge of networking and security told the Cisco Live gabfest that the company decided DNA Center “needs to be open and extensible”, and that the company is “extending the open and programmable access across the entire network”, it's a one-way openness.

Cisco relaunches Developer Network


The APIs allow “anybody to build applications” on DNA Center; management integration lets developers draw in data from other vendors' IT management systems; and the SDKs “allow third-party networking to be part of the fabric” – the Cisco fabric, since the goal is for Cisco to include other vendors' networking into things like service chains fit into Cisco's intent-based networking.

DevNet veep and chief technology officer Suzy Wee did a better job of putting the release into a context that underlined its importance.

Part of Switchzilla's recognition that it needed to sell more than iron has been to build a developer community, DevNet, which it's been working on since 2014.

DevNet achieved what previous attempts to build a third-party developer base didn't: it's grown to half a million members, meaning that many network people have at least started to turn themselves into developers (Wee explained that term includes “power users” of network technology, not just people who churn out lines of code from their “basements”).

The size of that community, alongside application developers' increasing interest in working with infrastructure (to get better insights into application performance, for example), is in Cisco's view “the beginning of this inflection” in how the network business operates.

That's in line with Cisco's own hope that it can turn itself into a software company without going down in flames – and that's why Wee echoed (more quietly, with far greater decorum) Ballmer, saying “we love our developers”.

“When the network becomes programmable there's a fundamental shift of how applications work with infrastructure”, Wee said.

Supporting the opened-up DNA Center are:

  • The DevNet DNA Developer Centre – aggregating everything about DNA Center;
  • DevNet code exchange – a curated list of DNA Center projects developers have published on GitHub; and
  • DevNet ecosystem exchange – to help customers find partners in the ecosystem. ®

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